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I’m currently working on a photographic project that attempts to represent the broad transformations in the local economy of my hometown—Adelanto, California. While initially a community that emerged as a retreat for WWI veterans with respiratory illnesses in the early part of the twentieth century, Adelanto has, since then, acutely registered numerous economic shifts that index the decline of American hegemony. It is often in places like Adelanto that the operations of empire find their fullest and yet most ordinary expression. Home to George Air Force Base from 1941-1992, the end of the Cold War, and seemingly the ‘end of history,’ saw the base decommissioned. In its place, the military Keyensianism that ruled the latter part of the twentieth century gave way to the promise of development represented by the expansion of the carceral state, which has produced a new configuration of the local economy. Adelanto is now home to four prisons, including two private GEO facilities where undocumented migrants are processed and detained. On the verge of bankruptcy for the last ten years, the city has now turned to the bourgeoning marijuana industry to generate revenue, holding in tension the prison-industrial complex with the entrepreneurial rise of marijuana dispensaries. In the end, the landscape of Adelanto remains indelibly marked by the operations of capital and institutions of state violence, both of which operate according to the cold calculations of the profit motive, bringing on waves of social and economic crisis. This project informs my academic writing on photography, but it also stands as a document to the often invisible histories of capitalist exploitation that, while grounded in specific locations, encode much more general tendencies that operate beyond the contours of individual experience.

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